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Work on two new ferries for the routes between Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert can finally get off the blocks, as Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) today (Friday 3 February) confirmed the signing of the bank refund guarantee needed to confirm the contract.

Work to build the ferries will now begin at Cemre Marin Endustri A.S shipyard in Turkey, with expected delivery dates in June and October 2025.

They will be built to the same specification as the vessels for Islay, which are already under construction at Cemre.

In January Cemre reported that the first of the two Islay ferries in the production timeline had had its keel laid, while steel-cutting for the second vessel began three weeks ahead of schedule.

Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL said: “We have been encouraged by the timescales the yard is achieving with the Islay vessels, with the most recent milestones being reached three weeks ahead of schedule. 

“These new ferries will deliver dedicated services during peak seasons to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, increasing capacity and resilience to the Outer Hebrides.”

Minister for transport Jenny Gilruth MSP said that the Scottish Government was absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities.

She said: “I’m pleased the final details of the contract for these additional vessels are now in place to allow work to get underway in earnest.

“The update on delivery timescales falling within 2025 for these additional vessels is very welcome, along with the positive progress being made on first two vessels for the Islay routes. 

“Our intention is that these additional vessels will be deployed on the Little Minch routes, delivering dedicated services to communities in the peak season rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place.

“This will create the opportunity for significantly increased capacity and resilience for the communities of the Western Isles.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, chair of the transportation and infrastructure committee at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “It is extremely welcome to receive good news on the future of our lifeline ferry services to the Outer Hebrides following the constrained capacity on Little Minch routes.

“CMAL and Scottish Government have acted decisively in ordering these two new ferries dedicated to the services between the mainland and Uist and Harris.

“We can look forward with confidence in the build timescale to a future where our economy is not held back by ferry services.”

Following today’s announcement Sinan Kavala, deputy general manager of Cemre Marin Endustri AS, said: “We are honoured to have been selected by CMAL to build a further two sustainable vessels for Scotland.

“Our team is committed to delivering all four ferries within the agreed timeframe and to the highest technological and sustainable standards.”

The picture shows the design of the new Islay and Jura ferries, which is to be followed in creation of the two new vessels for the Little Minch (Cemre).